The Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) recently opened a consultation seeking views from the oil and gas industry on its proposal to increase the levy (which is payable by all offshore petroleum licensees and is its primary source of funding) to support the creation and then maintenance of a UK National Data Repository. The OGA proposes that the increased levy will be balanced through the removal of the corresponding common data access limited membership fees, resulting in an overall neutral cost to the industry.
In July 2017 the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) opened investigations into the oil services company Amec Foster Wheeler Plc and the Rio Tinto mining group. One month later, the SFO announced that it would investigate corruption allegations against British American Tobacco Plc. Although the SFO did not give any further details, the tobacco giant had announced in February 2017 that it was investigating claims that it had bribed officials in East Africa to undermine anti-smoking laws.
In July 2017 the Supreme Court published its judgment in a case concerning the reporting of an individual's name, which had been mentioned during trial proceedings to which he was not a party. The individual had been arrested in respect of similar offences for which others were on trial, but a charging decision over him had not been made before the trial's commencement.
The Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) has rejected an application from the Independent Workers' Union of Great Britain for collective bargaining rights in respect of Deliveroo riders. In the first high-profile worker-status decision to find in favour of a company in recent times, the CAC held that Deliveroo's riders have a genuine right to use a substitute to perform deliveries before and after they have accepted a job, which riders take advantage of in practice.
The Supreme Court recently clarified that when applying the 'but for' test in the context of a negligent valuation, the basic comparison is between the position that the claimant would have been in if the defendant had fulfilled its duty of care and the claimant's actual position. This means that a defendant cannot be liable for a greater loss than was caused by its negligent valuation.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond recently delivered the Autumn 2017 Budget, the first budget in the new annual tax policy-making cycle. Although there were no radical policy changes, some changes will affect the UK franchise business sector, particularly with regard to the tax treatment of royalties, corporate tax and the digital economy, environmental tax, value added tax and business rates.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal recently upheld the Employment Tribunal decision that drivers engaged by Uber are workers rather than independent contractors. The decision has been eagerly awaited by human resource and employment practitioners seeking guidance on how to apply the test for worker status properly in the context of gig economy businesses. However, the judgment is highly fact-specific and other cases concerning gig economy businesses may not be decided in the same way.
The High Court recently considered the extent to which legal advice privilege could attach to documents which were not communications of legal advice between lawyer and client, but from which privileged legal advice could be inferred, and held that privilege could indeed apply to such documents. The test is whether there is a "definite and reasonable foundation" for such an inference to be made as opposed to material that would merely make the reader speculate what the legal advice was.
In a recent case, the Commercial Court found in favour of the defendant insurer in regard to the disputed construction of an insolvency exclusion in a professional indemnity insurance policy. The case is a useful restatement of the law on the interpretation of exclusion clauses in insurance contracts. It also serves as a reminder that policyholders should not assume, simply because an exclusion is widely drafted, that it will not be upheld by the courts in the event of a dispute.
The Court of Appeal recently upheld a High Court decision in which an oil company was found in contempt of court for holding an operating committee meeting in the absence of an alleged defaulting party. In doing so, the English courts have confirmed a willingness to intervene on an interim basis to preserve the status quo and prevent remedies available under a joint operating agreement from being exercised, pending the resolution of the issue in dispute by means of arbitration.
Arbitration funding is becoming increasingly more prevalent in England and Wales. Funders are legally sophisticated and understand a wide breadth of claim types, with each funder having a varying risk profile and appetite. Recent product developments include funders seeking to identify and fund bundles or portfolios of claims. Other innovations include pre-funding to allow claimants to determine the merits of an action and providing funding for general working capital.
The Supreme Court recently held that the test for dishonesty should be assessed only by reference to whether the defendant's conduct is dishonest by the objective standards of ordinary, reasonable and honest people. In its ruling, the Supreme Court concluded that there were convincing grounds for holding that the second limb of the well-known Ghosh test did not correctly represent the law and that directions based on it should no longer be given.
The Institutional Shareholder Services recently published its updated 2018 Proxy Voting Guidelines, effective for meetings on or after February 1 2018. As expected, the guidelines support hybrid shareholder meetings and reject virtual-only meetings. Other updates involve overboarding, audit and remuneration committee compositions, threshold vesting levels for long-term incentive plans and share issuances without pre-emption rights.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy recently published its long-awaited Clean Growth Strategy. The strategy was produced to comply with the Climate Change Act 2008, which requires a report setting out proposals and policies for meeting carbon budgets. Notable policies include the return to favour of carbon capture, usage and storage and confirmation that solar panels installed with a battery will attract a reduced value added tax rate.
In between the presentation of a winding-up petition and the making of a winding-up order, a company entered into a settlement agreement with its founder. The judge concluded that the intended claims by the company's liquidators were not barred by the agreement. The judge also held that the release of contractual rights constituted a disposition, as did a promise not to sue. The provisions of the settlement agreement were therefore void.
Where a farming operation is structured as a partnership, it is important to establish whether the underlying land is partnership property for a number of reasons. These can include whether the land is potentially subject to a legal rights claim on the death of a partner, ascertaining the sums due to the partners on the dissolution of a partnership and also tax reasons, such as whether the land will qualify for 100% business property relief for inheritance tax purposes.
The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service has published a guide to promoting positive mental health in the workplace. The guide highlights the benefits for employers in proactively addressing this issue and sets out a step-by-step process to help them to achieve the key objectives of tackling the causes of work-related mental ill health, creating a culture where employees can talk about their mental health and supporting employees who are experiencing mental ill health.
A recent application made by the insolvency practitioner of Agrokor, a major Croatian conglomerate, resulted in recognition in England of a stay of civil proceedings against the group. The purpose of the application was to halt any proceedings in relation to Agrokor's securities and debt obligations containing English law and jurisdiction provisions, pending the restructuring in the Croatian insolvency proceedings of the group's affairs.
The Investment Association recently published its annual letter to remuneration committee chairs and updated its Principles of Remuneration. The association has encouraged voluntary disclosure of chief executive officer pay ratios in 2018 directors' remuneration reports, introduced a new requirement to defer bonuses in excess of 100% of salary and kept up the pressure on overall levels of pay. Many companies must take action before their 2018 annual general meeting.
The administrators of Lehman Brothers Europe Ltd recently brought an application for directions on whether to make a substantial distribution of surplus to the company's sole shareholder while the company was in administration and the administrators' role in that distribution. To navigate around the Insolvency Act, the administrators devised a nifty strategy whereby the distribution would be made using the residual powers still vested in the directors and shareholders of the company pursuant to the Companies Act.